Alignex Blog

An Important Technical Advisory on Updating SOLIDWORKS PDM

Josh Seda on January 2, 2019 at 11:30 AM


The purpose of this technical advisory is to educate companies on the proper process for upgrading SOLIDWORKS Product Data Management (PDM) in an environment which includes both CAD and PDM. Furthermore this will cover upgrading both Standard and Professional versions with a focus to the latest 2019 version.

Since this process typically only happens once a year, customers often ask for a reminder on the process and the order of the updates. The PDM system must be upgraded prior to or at the same time as the CAD software. This is true for SOLIDWORKS PDM or any SOLIDWORKS PDM Solution Partner. The only exception is Workgroup PDM which is upgraded as part of SOLIDWORKS but will not be available after 2017.

We will describe this process as it pertains to a basic SOLIDWORKS PDM update and cover different things to consider before, during and after the update process.


  1. Initial Things to Consider
  2. Download and Prepare Update Files
  3. Environment Backup
  4. Prior Install Tasks
  5. PDM Server(s) Update
  6. Client Update
  7. Post Update Items

1. Initial Things to Consider

The first process to go through during any environment updates—especially one involving the software driving the business—is to create a plan. This document will cover a lot as it pertains directly to SOLIDWORKS and PDM, but many companies have more than those two packages. ERP, MRP, and other custom software that works alongside PDM and SOLIDWORKS will need to be researched independently. The best process to cover this is to create a test environment mirroring the production environment with the updates in place. This will add confidence during the update that things will work as intended once the update is finished. Understandably, many companies do not have the resources to create a test environment to identify potential speed bumps before during and after the update.

Secondly, take advantage of the information that is provided. The help files for SOLIDWORKS and PDM especially are very good and offer steps to most of the processes that this article will go through.

2. Download and Prepare Update Files

Downloads for the SOLIDWORKS and PDM update files can be found at The download from the customer portal will only be the initial installer. Alignex recommends, for every release, to use this installer to download the full installation file set to store and use for any upgrades.

SOLIDWORKS Customer Portal Login

Any employee using or managing the software should have a login here, as the customer portal offers a lot more value than just the ability to get the latest downloads.

Both SOLIDWORKS and PDM installation files are contained within the same file set and can be done from the same installer.

Next make sure the PDM install files are available to the necessary server(s) and users which could include the archive and database server—if they are separate—and any replicated archive servers (Professional only). Typically it is recommended that all installations be done from a local file set, but installing from a network location can work just as well depending on the quality of the networking infrastructure. Admin images can be created for both the SOLIDWORKS client and the PDM client to help make the update process more efficient. If the install/image files are located on the network, sharing the folder with read rights will be necessary. This will be covered in more detail in a later section.

3. Environment Backup

Hopefully, a backup of the environment has already been completed. If not, do that now. A full list of what should be backed up is available in the PDM Installation Guide. For PDM Professional vaults, a maintenance plan should be in place to automate the backups. For PDM Standard, because it uses SQL Express, maintenance plans are not available. In this case, you can use the Windows Task Scheduler to help automate scripted SQL backups. Please contact Alignex PDM Support for more info on this.

A list of items to be backed up:

1. File Vault Database: Hosted on the SQL server.

2. PDM Master Database: Hosted on the SQL server.

Both of these items can be set to back up with a professional backup solution made to work with SQL, or it can be accomplished with the SQL management studio tools. A SQL maintenance plan should also be in place to make regular backups of these files just in case.

3. Archive Server Settings: Contains all of the vault settings like passwords and defined login types.

4. Archive Server Files: This is where the physical files in the vault are stored and managed. This backup will most likely take the longest amount of time to complete and will vary in time depending on how many files are in the vault.

5. The Vault: Export the Vault from the admin tool to make a quick backup of the vault configuration.

These backups should be done regularly rather than just before an update. If you’re already doing regular backups you can time your update plan to take advantage of a fresh update.  Remember that you can also use your backups to build a test environment. This gives you the ability to see if backups are good, as well saving time when it’s time to test an upgrade. It should also go without saying that backups should be offloaded from the machine they are being made from. Storing the backup of the database on the same machine as the database doesn’t do much good when a hard drive fails.

4. Prior Install Tasks

Next make sure that the SOLIDWORKS SolidNetWork License (SNL) Manager is updated. This piece can be updated prior to any other update since it can hand out seats to any previous SOLIDWORKS version that used the SNL activation process.

Also note that as of 2015, PDM is also using the SNL manager instead of a license file like in previous versions. The SOLIDWORKS and PDM licenses can run from the same license manager, but some companies choose to separate them. When going to PDM 2019 for the first time, the new PDM serial number SNL activation should be attempted ahead of upgrade day, when possible, as there have been known issues with SOLIDWORKS properly activating the new asset. Contact Alignex Support for more information regarding this new process.

5. PDM Server Updates

PDM should always be updated at the same time or before SOLIDWORKS. PDM will support SOLIDWORKS up to two versions back, but the PDM Add-In from an older version may not work in a newer version of SOLIDWORKS. SOLIDWORKS 2019 does not work properly in prior versions of PDM.

The installation files are bundled with the SOLIDWORKS download, located in the \SWPDMServer\ folder. Launching \SWPDMServer\setup.exe will allow you to upgrade any installed components — Archive, Database, Web or Client. Once the updates to the servers are done, the vault database needs to be updated by running the \SWPDMServer\Upgrade\Upgrade.exe application.

The PDM Installation Guide also goes through comprehensive steps for updating PDM.

Once the update is completed the PDM administration tool should be logged into and here the license file or license server information can be put into the vault by right clicking on the license item in the vault list.

The next step is to upgrade any add-ins to the current version (Professional only).

  1. In the administration tool choose File > Open
  2. Navigate to PDM Install Directory > \Default Data 
  3. Choose Convert_gb.cex
  4. Drag SWTaskAddin onto your upgraded vaults and make sure to drag ONLY from the SWTaskAddin and NOT from Add-ins. Dragging Add-ins in will overwrite and reset all tasks.

6. Client Update

SOLIDWORKS PDM 2016 (and previous) Clients need to be at the same release and service pack as the servers. Starting with SOLIDWORKS PDM 2017, clients are not required to be at the same service pack level as the servers; however we recommend keeping all components at the same service pack level whenever possible.

Starting with SOLIDWORKS 2016, the SOLIDWORKS PDM Client installation is included as an option in the SOLIDWORKS Installation Manager. If the SOLIDWORKS and PDM clients are being updated at the same time, another option is to include the SOLIDWORKS PDM Client as a part of a SOLIDWORKS Admin image. Consult Alignex if you would like to discuss this.

The SOLIDWORKS Installation Help goes over creating the image and setting the options in the administration image option editor along with deployment methods and criteria.

7. Post Update Items

The next part of the process is testing. If a good test was done before the update this should be a smooth process.

One final PDM-related topic is the File Version Upgrade Utility (FVUT). Again, the PDM help file covers the File Version Upgrade tool process in great detail, including performing a trial file upgrade. The main item to know about this tool is the version setting. The option exists to create a new version of files or overwrite an existing version of files. If you choose to overwrite existing versions, the FVUT creates a backup of files before upgrading them so make sure you have enough space on your archive file server to accommodate the backups. You can delete backed up files after confirming that the upgrade is successful. If you choose to do this optional activity, Alignex recommends NOT updating your drawings with the FVUT as past software issues have resulted in drawings being unintentionally modified by the open/save process creating the possibility for incorrect manufacture of parts, etc.SolidWorks-File-Version-Upgrade-Tool-555

Hopefully a good bulk of information was gained from this article by all who read it. If you have any questions or need for further information feel free to Contact Alignex Support.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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